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ELC Santa Barbara Santa Barbara's Best Kept Hiking Secret: Knapp's Castle February 28th, 2013

It’s no doubt that Santa Barbara is an amazing location to soak up the sun, go shopping, or perhaps see a show, but it’s also home to some of the most gorgeous hiking trails along the West coast. While trails like Seven Falls, Inspiration Point, and the Chumash Painted Cave often receive the limelight amongst first time visitors, there’s an exceptionally beautiful spot named Knapp’s Castle just inside the Santa Ynez Mountains. Most trails take hikers up the southern face, exposing them to jaw dropping views of the Pacific and greater Santa Barbara area, but Knapp’s Castle is on the northern side and blesses hikers with an awe-inspiring panorama of the Los Padres National Forest. On a clear day one can even look out and see Lake Cachuma in the distance. So what is this place? And why is it called Knapp’s Castle?  Our story takes place in the early twentieth century, 1916 to be exact, when a man by the name of George Owen Knapp purchased 160-acres of ridge-top estate in the Santa Ynez Mountains. Co-founder of the Union Carbide Corporation, Knapp used his entrepreneurial success to fund Laurel Springs Ranch, a five-bedroom house with kitchen, dining room, pipe organ room, and observatory for stargazing! He also built a cottage less than one hundred yards away, which he used as sleeping quarters for servants, caretakers, and guests. While the property remains privately owned it is open to the public for exploring and holds a truly majestic spirit. With bits and pieces of the house still in tact it’s hard not to imagine oneself traipsing around with lavish amounts of money while the sun gently sets against the Santa Ynez Valley. This spot remains a hiker’s favorite amongst natives and can be easily recognized in photos by its iconic arches.